Larry is a humble, eloquent storyteller and a Type-2 Diabetes champion. For the longest time, Larry's blood sugar was out of control. Rachel Robinson's weight loss challenge at ShopRite came up and Larry joined in, not necessarily to lose weight but to get his sugars under control. His levels were swinging between 270 and 160. He could never seem to get them under 160.
Rachel showed Larry and his co-worker Dawn the plate with the food groups, proteins and vegetables. Larry said Dawn suggested going to the gym. “We started going every other day. It made the weight loss challenge fun. We'd go to Pub 99. I’d eye the rack of ribs but go for the cod bruschetta which is under 660 calories." He would really want the French onion soup but just order a small one and ask himself, "Do I really need the extra cheese?" Larry orders blueberry or strawberry salads which are under 700 calories. He started noticing that 10 wings are 1100 calories. "If we go to Roadhouse and it's a big piece of meat, we split it. The biggest kick is doing the exercise, going to the gym and running around here [at ShopRite]. I drink skim milk and put it in a normal size cereal bowl. I tend to stick with the same cereals. The print is small and hard to read." Larry shows me his magnifying glass and tells me his eyes are going. The retina specialist told him that the insides are swollen and holding liquid like a sponge but seem to be coming back under control. He and the specialist will check again, in about three months.
Larry's blood sugars went down and stayed down, in the 80s and 90s. His doctor was ecstatic. "You're doing it! We tell people it's controllable through diet and exercise and you are doing it!" Larry told the Doctor, "I need to be here every month. Not every three or four months. If it's that long, I think I can cheat."
From taking 1000 mg of Metformin per day, Larry went to 500 mg after 30 days. His sugars were monitored all along. After another month, the doctor took him off of the medication entirely and said, "See you in three months." That was seven months ago. Larry takes his blood sugars at the same time every morning where it hovers around 117, but is lower the rest of the day. "One day it was 140, so I jogged down the street. I went from 260 pounds to 203 pounds, from a 48" waist to a 34 or 36" waist. I had to go shopping."
I ask Larry what he is eating. "I eat a lot more salad." He adds pre-shredded carrots and some chopped purple onion. "You pre-slice it and put it in a slider [bag]. And, it's not so expensive. What's a pepper cost? 70 cents? It lasts a week." He adds two sausage patties for protein and jalapeño pepper jack cheese, "because I read that hot sauce gets the metabolism going. Believe it or not, I add hot sauce to my salad. Once in a while I will splurge, have sliced almonds, an apple, raisins or cran-raisins." Sometimes he has popcorn with his salad.
"Instead of a bag of chips at the break, I have a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter." He buys organic peanut butter now because Rachel showed him how the other peanut butters have a long list of other ingredients.
Larry has been a dairy manager for 44 years but had never tasted yogurt until recently. "Someone said it tasted like ice cream so I said, 'I'll stick to ice cream.'" Recently a co-worker convinced him to try some plain Greek yogurt and add walnuts and cinnamon as a snack. He liked it!
Breakfast is usually black coffee, a whole wheat English muffin with organic peanut butter and a half a banana. "A half a banana?" I ask. He put the other half in a baggie and has it later as a snack. He is eating in moderation. One scoop of ice cream instead of the big bowl. "The purpose isn't to deprive yourself. Once in a while, you have a 'cheat day'. For me, it's having pizza. On Halloween, I had six pieces of candy." As a treat for Monday night football, he'll have a diet soda. The rest of the time, it's water.
"I used to eat a lot of pizza. When my wife passed away, it was easier to go to the pizza store instead of cooking. I do cook at home. I'll make chicken with no skin. If I eat sausage patties, I limit it to two. I had tacos last night, in the bowl, with no taco shells. At every meal, I have salad first. I eat only multigrain bread and only whole wheat pasta. I go to my brother's for meals." No one really seems to notice or mind that he is bringing whole grain options. "At night, if I need a snack, I have five dried apricots. If you cut them up, they go further."
"After the gym Rachel said I need a little something" says Larry about reaching for the tootsie roll in the candy dish at the gym. I can see why he needs a snack after the gym. He is on the step machine for an hour. He is also on the elliptical. I ask him how he concentrates when he exercises. "I watch tv. If Dawn or Maryanne's there, we talk. Sue, another co-worker, will go with me once in a while. An exercise buddy helps. You gotta have somebody."
On vacation, he has been known to go to the gym at 11PM. He tells me about the time he worked out twice in one day because his friend called and he didn't have the heart to tell him that he'd already worked out.
In Larry's eyes, burning bright, is a commitment to living fully, to seeing the opportunities put before him and seizing them in a glorious, true carpe diem (seizing of the moment). In Larry's eyes, sparkling and kind, I see an iron will. I see self care: the highest compassion we can bring to ourselves and to others.